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TWO MILLION DOLLARS OF CRAP! Maddow doesn’t understand politics, as she made clear Monday night: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2010

Pravda reports on the schools: Quite often, your “press corps” is strikingly Sovietized. Consider the way the New York Times got the airbrush out today in reporting Joel Klein’s departure.

Klein is leaving his job as head of New York City’s schools. He’ll be replaced by Cathleen Black, who “has no educational background, in keeping with [Mayor] Bloomberg’s preference for executives from the business world.” Right at the top of today’s front page, this is the way the New York Times describes Klein’s eight-year tenure:

OTTERMAN (11/10/10): Mr. Klein can make many claims about the successes of his tenure, including rising test scores and graduation rates, and the initial makings of an objective system to evaluate teachers and schools.

Certainly, Klein “can make many claims”—but would those claims be accurate? In her next paragraph (inside our hard-copy Times), Otterman weirdly writes that “his detractors argue that the test scores were inflated.” It isn’t until paragraphs 29 and 30 (out of 33 paragraphs total) that readers are given a bit of the truth—though even here, Otterman bungles:

OTTERMAN: The opposition was further emboldened when the state announced this summer that the test scores on which Mr. Klein’s accountability system hinged were inflated because the exams had grown too easy to pass.

A correction brought test scores nearly back to the starting levels of the mayor’s tenure, replacing a narrative of historic gains with one of slow progress.

Do Klein’s “detractors” “argue” that test scores were inflated? Last August, the state of New York announced that they were! But in the Soviet system preferred by the Times, these facts are slowly being erased, in deference to a billionaire mayor and his inexperienced favorite. Lost to history is the way this school chief and his billionaire mayor paraded all around the country, boasting about those phony test scores. Plainly, Klein should have known about this problem—and perhaps he did, while refusing to tattle. But in deference to a billionaire mayor, Times readers aren’t being asked to ponder the meaning of Klein’s bogus claims.

All hail the departing city school chief, who “had no educational background!” All hail the incoming chief, who “has no background” herself!

(For details of Otterman’s bungle, see below.)

Today’s front-page report about Klein is rather strongly Sovietized. But so was Trip Gabriel’s report about black fourth-graders in yesterday’s New York Times. Yesterday, we commented on some of the oddities from that piece—most strikingly, on the press corps’ long-standing refusal to discuss the fact that test scores have risen rather sharply for black and Hispanic kids in the past fifteen years (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/9/10). Same old scam! Citing data from the “highly respected national math and reading tests known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress,” Gabriel noted that black fourth-grade boys score substantially lower in math than their white peers do. But he failed to note a second fact: On those same “highly respected national tests,” math and reading scores by black and brown kids have massively risen since the mid-1990s.

The pattern is unmistakable to anyone who follows these topics, though almost nobody does. In the Sovietized world of our current power elites, readers are constantly given the bad news about the performance of black kids. The good news keeps getting air-brushed away, in apparent service to the “reforms” preferred by these potent elites. Let’s continue on a bit from the topics explored in yesterday’s post. This is how Comrade Gabriel assessed the very bad news he selectively reported:

GABRIEL (11/9/10): The search for explanations has recently looked at causes besides poverty, and this report may further spur those efforts.

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”

The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.

What it does not discuss are policy responses identified with a robust school reform movement that emphasizes closing failing schools, offering charter schools as alternatives and raising the quality of teachers.

The report did not go down this road because “there’s not a lot of research to indicate that many of those strategies produce better results,” Mr. Casserly said.

Other have a different response. The key to narrowing the achievement gap, said Dr. Ferguson, is “really good teaching.”

Today, when elites discuss public schools, all roads lead to the need for better teachers. In this remarkably jumbled, illogical passage, Gabriel ends up with one “educational expert” saying that other strategies simply don’t produce better results—and with a second expert announcing the need for “really good teaching.”

Really good teaching is important, of course—but every third-grader knows that. Meanwhile, note the news the Times disappeared! Even as an “educational expert” was quoted saying that current strategies don’t “produce better results,” readers were kept from knowing the truth! Readers were kept from knowing that results have been massively better in the past fifteen years, on the same “highly respected national math and reading tests” for which Gabriel has already vouched.

Readers were told that nothing has worked—even though something plainly has. Instead, readers were told that we have to get better teachers. (Translation: Break up their unions!)

This is ugly, evil work—and it’s straight outta the Soviet state, in its method if not in its politics. Is Gabriel an enemy of the state? We’ll only say that this seems to be the work he has chosen. But please understand the basic fact: If we credit the data from the national tests Gabriel so heartily praises, then something has been “producing better results” over the past fifteen years!

What has produced those impressive results? Sorry! The results themselves have been airbrushed away, so Times readers will never ask. And there won’t be a word in the whole liberal world. White liberals don’t care about black kids.

What has produced those impressive score gains? New York Times readers don’t have to ask. In the Times, those gains never happened. Ain’t life in the old SU grand?

Otterman pretty much bungles: What’s wrong with Otterman’s work in paragraphs 29 and 30, where she finally lets readers know that the state announced that those score gains were bogus? Duh. She still implies that we can sensibly compare passing rates on last year’s New York state tests to those from the start of Klein’s tenure. We know of no reason to believe that; we’ve seen no indication that the state of New York can prove that last year’s tests were “equivalent to” those from that earlier year. But at the top of this Soviet press corps, technical competence is non-existent. Pre-approved narrative conquers all.

By the way: New York City’s test scores have gone up on those “highly-respected” national tests. Otterman didn’t bother to tell you—or to tell you how much.

TWO MILLION DOLLARS OF CRAP (permalink): Again, we strongly recommend that you see The Social Network. If you do, ask yourself this:

To what extent does the amoral culture portrayed in this film pervade America’s “news business?” More precisely, to what extent does this amoral culture pervade Our One True Liberal Channel?

On Monday, we asked ourselves that very question, as we watched an incompetent, two-million-dollar-per-year cable star discuss the debate about tax cuts. The incompetent in question was Rachel Maddow, who powered ahead with her standard rap about the amazing political gift the GOP has given the Democrats:

MADDOW (11/8/10): Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well.

After Democrats gave up a ton of seats in last week’s elections to the Republicans, Republicans have responded by handing Democrats a ginormous political gift. Democrats being Democrats however, no one yet knows if they will accept the gift. Congressional Republicans this weekend laid to rest any ambiguity about what they are coming to Washington to do—at least what they are coming to Washington to do first.

[video clips of Republicans proposing tax cuts]

To unspin for a second: I know you’ve heard a lot about this, but the fight here is really about one very, very specific thing. The fight that the Republicans are picking first, the first thing they want to do after this election in Washington, is to add $700 billion to the deficit.

Actually, Republicans “want to add about $4 trillion to the deficit.” President Obama wants to add about $700 billion less. (To see the New York Times explain this rather well-known fact, go ahead—just click here.) Maddow is simply presenting the tale in a way which turns the GOP proposal into “a ginormous political gift”—or at least, so she thinks. But is the proposal a ginormous gift? In yesterday’s New York Times, Jackie Calmes reported some of the reasons why the Democrats put this issue aside until after last week’s elections. As others have reported before, Calmes said that major players like senators Boxer, Murray and Reid didn’t want to be forced to run on that “ginormous political gift.”

If Calmes is right, these highly experienced political professionals didn’t think this was a gift. Maddow keeps insisting it is because she’s a hopeless ingénue.

Why isn’t the tax cut issue a ginormous political gift? In part, because many millions of American voters don’t think the way Maddow does. The lady is so full of self-adoration that she rarely wastes her time understanding such facts of American life; she prefers to aim dick jokes at the unwashed, then to pretend that they just don’t exist. But in this morning’s New York Times, our dumbest columnist turns her space over to her brother Kevin, a fellow who’s even dumber than she is.

Sadly, this is the way Kevin Dowd describes Obama’s tenure to date. We’ll highlight a few basic notions:

KEVIN DOWD (11/10/10): The voters left no doubt about their feeling for his super-nanny state where the government controls all aspects of their lives and freedoms. Warning signs were up in the three elections held in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey and with the noisy birth of the Tea Party. But the president, swathed in the protective cocoon of adulation and affirmation from the media and his own sycophants, soldiered on in his determination to turn our country into just another member of the failed European union—France without the food.

No one should be surprised by this. The president is a devoted disciple of the teachings of Saul Alinsky and a true believer in a redistribution of wealth controlled by big government. We can see how well that is working in Greece, Portugal, Spain and France. Instead of focusing on jobs and turning the private sector loose to provide them, he insisted on giving the American people things they did not want: expensive health care, more regulation and higher taxes. He clumsily interjected himself on behalf of the mass-murdering Muslim Army major, the ground zero mosque, the civil trials of enemy combatants and the lawsuit against Arizona. His theme song could have been “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

Truly, that is horrible work—right down to Kevin Dowd’s unexplained claim that Obama has insisted on “giving higher taxes” to the American people. (Does the Times have any editors?) But Maddow lives in a country where such understandings and beliefs are quite common. (It’s a country she doesn’t much understand, as Charles Murray explained in the Washington Post, in an instantly-ridiculed essay.) It doesn’t enter her rather dim head that tens of millions of American voters construe the world the way Kevin Dowd does. Their frameworks, understandings and beliefs are very different from Maddow’s own. As a result, they see the GOP proposal very differently from the way Maddow does.

These people exist. And they vote.

If you understand the tax cut proposal as these people do, the proposal is not a ginormous gift to the Democrats. Presumably, that would explain why Boxer, Murray and Reid apparently wanted to postpone that vote—a vote on a topic Maddow keeps describing as a flat-out gift.

Maddow seems to understand little of this; she is defiantly clueless about the people with whom she shares her country. Her brain seems to work as the tribal brain does: Obama’s proposal makes good sense to her, and she assumes that’s the end of the story. As she continued on Monday night, she was soon offering this perfect crap—standard piffle from one of the many millionaires who litter our broken discourse:

MADDOW: If you were a Democratic shaman inventing an issue to define the Democratic Party versus the Republicans after this election in particular, after this election motivated by the bad economy and fueled by people worrying about their economic standing and all this populist lip service paid to fiscal conservatism, this is the issue that you would invent.

Here’s an issue on which Democrats want to be fiscally conservative and Republicans want to be fiscally profligate in order to help the richest people in the country. Bingo!

[…]

The things you most want to do after a Cowboys versus Packers-esque rout is define yourself—define yourself as a party, define your party and define the opposition party in a way that aligns your interest, your preferences, your sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, with where the vast majority of the country stands. You want to define the other side you were standing up against as—sure, unified and determined—but also dead wrong.

In order for this to work, though, the thing is, you have got to stand up against that other side in order to collect that political gift, in order to reap that political benefit.

Joining us now to understand the real difference, the real policy difference between these two things the parties are offering right now is J. J. Ramberg. She’s host of MSNBC’s Your Business. And she is an expert explainer of complicated things about money.

Politically, that is amazingly dumb. But “dumb” is this child’s middle name.

We strongly suggest that you watch what happened when Ramberg explained “the real policy difference.” (To watch this full segment, click here. Note Maddow’s trademark self-confidence.) Is Ramberg “an expert explainer of complicated things about money?” In fact, she gave a rather convoluted explanation of the tax cut issue as it affects small business hiring—an explanation in which she basically said that both parties are fudging the facts. If Maddow had an ounce of sense, her confidence would have flown by the time Ramberg finished her rather complex discussion. And she might have understood why this issue might not be a gift from the gods.

Maddow is a pampered child in a nation whose discourse is badly broken. She rarely shows any sign of understanding the depth of that problem—of how much effort it will take for real progressives to fix it. If a tax cut proposal makes sense to her, she seems to assume it “makes sense” in an absolute way. But it may not make political sense in a nation full of people who get their ideas from Rush Limbaugh and Fox, as Maureen Dowd’s brother does.

The tax cut issue pretty much isn’t a gift, especially after last week’s elections But Maddow doesn’t understand this. She’s full of self-confidence—but she isn’t especially smart about politics. (Beyond that, she isn’t real honest.) Sadly, she’s making the liberal world dumber—as she stuffs those millions of dollars down her self-confident pants.